Chennaiyin FC and Minerva Punjab played out a goalless draw in their opening game of the AFC Cup in Group E. Chances were there for both teams to take the points, but the game ended in a stalemate after none of the openings were taken.
Chennaiyin FC dominated large parts of the match with possession with Minerva restricted to a couple of outside shots that tested Chennaiyin keeper Karanjit Singh.
Thoi Singh was once again active down Chennaiyin’s right flank and provided the team with its two best chances, both coming within a few minutes of each other in the second half.
In the 59th minute after being played into space by Anirudh Thapa down the right, his cross was snapped up by Minerva keeper Arshdeep Singh just before an onrushing Jeje Lalpekhlua could apply the finish.
And a few minutes later the Manipuri striker found himself in the box, charging his way through to try and get on the end of a cross from Tondonba Singh. His, however,however was just inches wide of the post.
Minerva threatened Chennaiyin's goal twice, both instances coming in the first half and both from powerful shots from outside the box. It was Kalif Al Hassan in the 25th minute and then Samuel Lalmuanpuia just 4 minutes later. Karanjit Singh was on hand to save each time for Chennaiyin.
In the end, Chennaiyin couldn't make their dominance with the ball count and the game finished 0-0.
Here were the main talking points from the game:
#1 ISL vs. I-League showdown in the AFC Cup
Minerva coach Sachin Badhade seemed very keen to stir up the debate of ISL vs I-League after the match. With all the recent spate of events in Indian football involving the I-League teams, it wasn't all that surprising.
Despite being content to defend for most of the game, barring a 15-minute spell in the opening half, Badhade's comments certainly stirred things up after the game.
"It was a really good game for us. In the first half, we had 4-5 chances that we missed. Looking at the situation - they are an ISL team and we are an I-League team - we are really above them in quality."
A pointed barb at the ISL and its teams, but after a performance where they didn't really play well seems to suggest that Minerva Punjab are focused more on the narrative than the actual performance here.
Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory too referenced his counterpart's words saying, “They raised their game to play us. Defended very well and put numbers behind the ball. Credit to them for that, I guess they were keen to pit the I-League against the ISL.”
It is very clear that the ongoing Cold War between the ISL and I-League teams seems to have now gone to the Asian stage.